Wednesday, 12 April 2017

One

Well this joyous wonderful complicated and amazing girl of mine is a year old today!


I am an incredibly biased parent and could write pages on her many remarkable attributes and about what an unbelievably fantastic and devastatingly hard year this has been,

However as I remember this time a year ago I thought it might be good to share her birth story.
We have just started the new series of MasterChef, this time last year it had become something of an obsession with Matt and I as we patiently awaited those first pangs of labour….

Clara was eight days late, I had hoped for a prompt arrival and was starting to get a bit annoyed so sweet and much needed distraction came in the form of MasterChef. We watched completely agog as the amateur chefs created sumptuous dishes to impress the judges, Matt had the sofa to himself as I was confined to the purgatory of bouncing on a bright pink ball in the hopes of coaxing labour out of its shell.

I remember reflecting on the weirdness of the birth process, of feeling so fed up with being huge that you begin to will your body to cause you enormous pain, there was an almost addictive mix of Adrenalin, excitement and fear as I pictured what was to come.

On the 9th April we had driven out to the beautiful American Cemetery on the outskirts of Cambridge as I had heard a rumour that it had steps – I cut a strange figure that day as I walked up and down among the gravestones 30 or so times willing the activity to get the baby moving.

So when nothing had happened two days later I was pretty sure that the baby had decided to stay on the inside forever, but at 2pm on the 11th April I started getting regular contractions like some kind of uncomfortable miracle!

It was fairly non painful at this point, standard waves of period like pain. We called my mum as I was keen she was around for the birth and she had a few hours to drive to get to us. A memorable moment was some charity collectors coming to the door midway through a contraction – Not now – my wife is in labour! proved an extremely effective deterrent.

I used the famous pink ball to brace myself against also a TENS machine and a hot water bottle which seemed to work quite nicely.

As I was easing into the bath I felt like my waters had broken and we made a hilarious and slightly hysterical call to the midwifery unit – later on (much later) when they finally did break we really laughed that we had thought that was it.

Mum arrived and we had some food and headed to bed. I didn’t really sleep mainly because I was so excited and at around 2am my contractions were close enough together that we called the unit and headed into the hospital.

The midwife showed us to a room but suggested that Matt and I go and find some indoor stairs to walk up and down to get things moving – (because we all know how easy it is to climb stairs whilst attached at the hip to a giant pink birthing ball!!) the unit was deserted and at one point a porter casually cycled past on his way somewhere, only in Cambridge would the porters cycle inside a hospital!

I was contracting mainly on my knees braced against the ball so by 7:am I was keen for a change and asked to get into the birthing pool in our room. This was lovely, over the next few hours the contractions ramped up a gear and I was doing some nice breathing and visualising all sorts of random things like trains in tunnels and waves on beaches – Matt thought I was loosing it but it seemed to help. I was also plied with iced tea and multigrain bars for energy.

At around 9:00am I asked to try the gas and air which I liked…a lot. It didn’t take the pain away as much as take me away from the pain. During this time I thought Matt was the most hilarious person on the planet, which did his ego a world of good.

By around 11:00 the midwife was keen to examine me for the first time (the Rosie birth center where I gave birth has a very hands off approach) so I came out of the water and lay on the bed.
This was when things got real.

I started having big mean angry contractions and my waters literally EXPLODED forth from me (Matt was down the business end and got soaked) so I guess this is the point they would call transition – I certainly transitioned from a calm and collected earth mama into a screaming banshee.
I think the position on my back probably didn’t help but the pain meant I couldn’t even think about moving. The Gas and air became a constant companion as the contractions reached a new level.

I was screaming mindlessly through each contraction. I couldn’t control this noise and it didn’t really feel like me at all. This was pretty terrifying but at some point I became aware that my body was doing what it was meant to be doing and that somehow all that noise was helping to get my baby out.

This is the bit that I don’t like to remember particularly as it felt indeterminable even though it was in reality about an hour or so. I couldn't believe how painful these contractions were, truly nothing could have prepared me for the sheer scale of the agony. During this phase Matt was amazing he seemed to know exactly what I needed and I remember bracing my legs on his shoulder during the contractions.

By this point I had been awake for 24 hours and was totally exhausted. The midwife said it was time to push and invited me onto all fours, I almost sobbed at the very notion as my body felt like it had been through a war and I wasn’t sure it was capable of such heights any more. But I really wanted it all to be over so I dutifully dragged myself up and started the pushing process.

Cue loads of excitement from mum, Matt and the midwife who could all see what was going on and less excitement from me who could certainly FEEL a lot but didn’t have the foggiest what was happening!

It was odd to feel slightly excluded from something that was happening so directly to me.
I must have been pushing for about two hours, it takes a surprisingly long time to get that head down the birth canal! She kept coming down then heading back up again, but eventually with the traditional ‘ring of fire’ feeling (otherwise known as pooing a brick) Clara’s head was born, at exactly 1:55pm on the 12th April.

 In that second she started to cry and for a moment she was just a little crying head! I obviously couldn’t see this but can picture it clearly as it is such a funny image, I was feeling sheer relief after the crazy pain of birthing her head. Then the rest of her wriggled out and she was spellbindingly wonderfully real, straight on to my chest where I drank her all in.

So there you have it folks, it was a wonderful, painful as hell, straightforward natural birth.

(I did also sustain a horrible, unlucky 3c tear in the birthing process. That's another story and doesn’t really have a place in this post, so for now I will pause the scene right there)

The midwife asks ‘would dad like to cut the cord?’ dad politely declines looking a little green while nearby a tearful grandmother falls head over heals for her only daughters daughter.

And as for me, well I’m just peachy. My beautiful girl is nestled on my chest, her face is somehow both brand new and entirely familiar, she takes to my breast like a seasoned professional when my mum latches her on. My body sighs into an ‘ah-ha’ moment as I make that seismic change into mother.


What a moment. 


Thursday, 30 March 2017

Sisters

We found out that baby #2 is a little girl and my first thought was

 ‘what on earth am I going to do with sisters?!’  
Here she is!


I didn’t have any sisters you see, I had two brothers. the closest cousins to us in age are boys as well so I spent a lot of time in male company as a child.
And I always wanted a sister.

It was my deepest longing for a long long time. I always had this feeling that any loneliness or otherness I felt would be instantly solved by the close kinship involved in sisterhood.
I inhaled books like ‘Little Women’ ‘What Katy did’ and even ‘Sweet Valley Twins’ which all include strong sister relationships. Literature has a lot to answer for when it comes to idealism!

I knew of course in theory that the sister bond was not completely perfect – for one thing my mother and her sister were demonstrably not close at all, yet the utopian idea of another girl to share the stuff of life with was strong.

A lot of my games with friends were about playing at being sisters, and I actually dressed my amenable little brother up in girls clothes on occasion (!) The door was finally closed on my hope for a biological sister when I was told that dad had had a vasectomy. Regardless I stubbornly spent the next year petitioning for our family to consider adoption.

Alas my plea fell on deaf ears and I gradually resigned myself to a sisterless existence.
As an adult I would watch the sister relationships I encountered with great interest. My best friend Emma and her sister Katie were always good to observe. There was an ease and strength to their relationship underpinned by a fierce loyalty to one another, a level of understanding and of belonging to one another that was new to me.

Now I should at this point pause to shout out to brothers – I love mine enormously, they are both wonderful loving and strong men who have formed me hugely, I was very privileged to share my childhood and adolescence with them and I am still glad to call them my friends as well as family. Yes I know what to do with brothers.

But sisters?

I worry that they will fight, that I will have these sky high expectations of their relationship and be disappointed with the reality. I’m worried about the hormonal teenage years (I was a nightmare as a preadolescent) my girls will be very close in age and while hopefully this will lead to firm friendship I am aware that it may also breed competitivity and resentment.  

This morning Clara rested her head on my stomach and the little one was kicking like crazy, I know she could feel her but who knows what she made of it. She’s still too small to confuse with existential truths about where babies grow. But It made me smile to think that she will never remember a world without her little sister in it.

In short I am excited for all the potential there is for these two to be champions of one another. 
Also I am nervous about how as parents we can best nurture strong and secure bonds between our children which will lead to wonderful lifelong connections, whilst allowing them to remain unique individuals.


Answers on a postcard please!


Monday, 13 February 2017

In the Morning


 Matt Gives Clara her breakfast most mornings to give me a blessed extra half an hours sleep, by about 8:00 Clara can be heard shouting for mama so she gets delivered to our bed. The following ensues..

                                                 1) 30 seconds of deliriously happy cuddles



2) Clara gets bored and decides to see how easily my eyelashes can be removed 


3) That didn't go down too well so she looks into how many fingers she can cram into my mouth instead...



                     4) We have a dance party to musically dodgy but very catchy kids worship



Not restful but very fun!


In other news, next week I will officially be halfway through growing baby #2, I have brought a new pair of maternity jeans to celebrate :)


Monday, 23 January 2017

Deep Breath

Recently I’ve been reflecting on the wisdom of taking a deep breath.

During my labour with Clara I was surprised by how far through the process slow intentional breaths took me, oxygen filling my lungs, calming me down and helping me to manage the pain.

This is something that I have continued to practice as a parent. When she was a tiny new-born the sound of my breathing would soothe and help her sleep. Even in the worst most fractious wakeful nights, intentional deep breaths would reset us both, they felt unnatural to begin with as I exaggerated the sound so she could hear it above her cries, but more often than not as the rhythm was established we would both fall asleep, all angst forgotten.

 I haven’t needed to calm her like this in a while but last month in the middle of teeth mania I was reluctant to breastfeed her because she took to biting her pain and frustration out (ouch).
So here we were again.
 Sad baby, exhausted mama, deep breaths.

This teething is the first real pain she has experienced and it is my job to somehow teach her that it is a normal part of life and to help her learn to navigate through it.
So far, this is all I’ve got – calpol and deep breaths.


You’re upset and hurting
Share my calm for a while

You need to know I’m close
Sleep in our bed for a while

Your breathing ragged and uncertain
Breathe my breath for a while

We shared it all nine months and longer
Still I don’t mind giving more

So take my breath my space my life

Take it all
For a while.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

When you've been out as long as you were in..

9 months old and excellent in so many ways but my current favourite is listening to her say 'ba ba ba' really quietly under her breath as she contemplates how best to destroy something. She also really likes licking feet.

Matt put together a little video of the journey so far, its nuts to see how much she can do now compared to just a few months ago! It begins with her first feed (sob!)












Sunday, 8 January 2017

Lets do it all again..

So this happened.....



I am finding it all exciting and overwhelming, joyful and panic inducing.

We've known for a while but sharing the news and having the scan this week made it all seem very real - I feel like i'm processing it all over again.

I thankfully haven't felt too poorly this time around which just goes to show how different two pregnancy's can be.

The scan was great, the little one was full of theatrics, waving, lying in the wrong position then sticking his/her tongue out! I'm hesitant to attribute too many personality types to a fetus but this one does seem a bit of a live wire. I am trying not to think too hard about getting this baby out of me (!) Clara's birth is still a bit too fresh in my mind I think!

I'm also impressed once again by the amazing capabilities of the female body, mine has been casually sustaining all three of us these past couple of months (though Clara was admittedly eating a lot of food along with the milk!).

However this past week, with a characteristic lack of fuss, she self weaned from breast milk completely. I was left in floods of tears, weepily looking back at videos of her first feed etc but she was very composed about the whole thing and is now taking a couple of  beakers of formula a day. I had wanted to breast feed her for a year at least but she had other ideas! I should probably get used to this being increasingly the case!

It will be a fairly diminutive age gap of around 15 months (!) which has caused many to gasp with horror. I am slightly horrified myself though we were always keen for a smallish age gap - there is only 18 months between me and my older brother and it was an incredibly positive experience for us both growing up.

SO 2017 probably wont unfold into the most restful of years but as Matt and me have always said..

We never dreamed of a quiet life.

Monday, 2 January 2017

'Ring out, wild bells'


Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.


Alfred Lord Tennyson 


Happy 2017! How exciting to have a fresh start before us once more. I hope wherever this finds you that you are able to 'Ring in the Christ that is to be' at the start of this new year.  

We've had a full Christmas period with lots of travel, family and friends, after a horrendous teething month (we went from two to seven!) Clara has started to sleep through the night so I am very much hoping to catch up on some much needed Z's as January progresses!

I will finish with a few of my favourite pictures from over Christmas.

Bathtime!!



Going on a bear hunt?!